Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – May 2009

Volume 9 Number 5 


1. Welcome

2. Promoting Responsibility

3. Increasing Effectiveness

4. Improving Relationships

5. Promoting Learning

6. Discipline without Stress

7. Testimonials and Research



“A problem is a problem only when you label it a problem.”

–William Glasser, M.D.



I was asked the following:

What is a good response to people who argue that extrinsic

rewards are okay because it’s like adults getting a

paycheck? When people say this, I cringe. I know it’s not

the same, but I don’t know how to argue intelligently with


My response:

Employment is a social contract. People provide service for

compensation. The only thing a fee for service has in common

with a reward is that it may involve legal tender. When was

the last time you looked at your paycheck and thanked your

employer for the reward?


I have added a new link for visuals to my homepage:


The link contains visuals of:


(1) The procedure described for impulse management

(2) The Hierarchy of Social Development


The procedure described for impulse management

and for the Hierarchy of Social Development


A simple visual and a procedure for quickly obtaining

students’ attention


Poster for primary students


Descriptors of the levels for all grade levels


How to use the hierarchy to prompt students to get to school

on time

The hierarchy as it relates to READING

The hierarchy as it relates to MATH

The hierarchy as it relates to SPELLING

The hierarchy as it relates to PERSEVERANCE

The hierarchy as it relates to PHYSICAL EDUCATION


The May 2009 edition of

journal of the Association for Supervision and Development

(ASCD) has published an article by Kerry Weisner, who I

often quote in this newsletter.

ASCD’s journal is the most widely distributed educational

journal in the world. To have an article included in the

publication is an honor few educators achieve. The article

explains how Kerry’s elementary school changed FROM making

daily announcements that told students what was expected,


passively, students were prompted to THINK. As a result they

became more engaged and interested in implementing the

messages of the announcements.

The approach is so simple yet so effective in promoting

responsibility. The entire article can be read online at


or download the article in portable document format (pdf) at




The following are a few highlights about making the brain

more effective from the February/March, 2009 issue of


Scientists are finding that the adult brain is far more

malleable than they once thought. Our behavior and

environment can cause substantial rewiring of the brain or a

reorganization of its functions including where they are



Researchers now know that neurogenesis (the birth of new

neutrons) is a normal feature of the adult brain. Studies

have shown that one of the most active regions for

neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a structure that is vitally

important for learning and long-term memory.

Mental AND physical exercise boost neuron survival. New

cells need connections with other neurons that are already


Following are some suggestions for increasing brain power:


Exercise can improve the brain’s executive functions of

planning, organizing, and multi-switching to name a few.

Exercise is also well known for its mood-boosting effects,

and people who exercise are less likely to develop dementia

as they age.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which also

increases the delivery of oxygen, fuel, and nutrients that

encourages growth, communication, and survival of neurons.

Exercise also improves sleep quality and immune functions.

Senior citizens have shown that as little as 20 minutes of

walking a day can do the trick.


Omega-3 fats found in fish, nuts, and seeds–along with

fruits and vegetables–appear to be brain superfoods. Some

of the best brain foods: walnuts, blueberries, and spinach.


The auditory cortex analyzes many components of music’s

volume, pitch, timbre, melody and rhythm. However, there is

more to musicÕs interaction with the brain than just the raw

sound. Music can also activate the brain’s reward centers

and depress activity in the amygdala, thereby reducing fear

and other negative emotions.

Of course, I would add the three principles to practice:

POSITIVITY prompts good feelings and promotes healthy neural

connections, CHOICE empowers and reduces the disempowering

and negative emotions of victimhood thinking, and REFLECTION

prompts thinking that activates and creates new neural



Last month I wrote about CLARITY being far more

than agreement.

Here is an example that changed from a “telling” approach to



The event occurred on November 20, 1985 at Fleur d’Eau,

Geneva, Switzerland, during the Geneva Summit meeting

between the U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, and the USSR

General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev accused

Reagan of lecturing him. Reagan responded that he (Reagan)

had been misinterpreted.

Later that afternoon, Reagan asked Gorbachev (and only their

interpreters) to go on a short walk to the cabin by the

lake. During the conversation the president asked the

following question to the general secretary: “If the United

States were to be attacked by something from outer space,

would the U.S.S.R. come to the rescue of the United States?”

Gorbachev responded, “Of course.”

Reagan responded, “Me, too,” meaning that it would be the

same if the situation were to be reversed.

The question asked and the resulting response immediately

changed the relationship between the two world leaders and

marked the beginning of the end to the “cold war.”

To review, telling or lecturing (versus sharing) was

reduced by asking a brilliant, reflective, and creative




THE SERIOUS NEED FOR PLAY – A few highlights, also from the

February/March, 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind:

“Free play,” as scientists call it, is critical for becoming

socially adept, coping with stress, and building cognitive

skills such as problem solving. Play-deprived childhood

disrupts normal social, emotional and cognitive development.

Psychologists say that limiting free play in kids may result

in a generation of anxious, unhappy, and socially

maladjusted adults.

Why are experts concerned that structured games–such as

soccer and more structured activities–are eating into free

play? Certainly games with rules are fun, foster learning to

work with others, and develop group cohesion.

The reason is that games have rules set up in advance to

follow. Play, on the other hand, does not have a priori

rules, so it affords more creative responses. This creative

aspect is key because it challenges the developing brain

more than following predetermined rules do. In free play,

kids use their imagination and try out new activities and


Children’s free play involves fantasies–such as pretending

to be doctors or princesses or playing house–or mock

fighting, as when kids (primarily boys) wrestle and tumble

with one another for fun, switching roles periodically so

that neither of them always wins. The activity does not

need to have a clear goal.

Play helps develop social skills. Young people don’t become

SOCIALLY COMPETENT by teachers telling them how to behave.

Those skills are learned by interacting with peers, by

learning what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable.

Because kids enjoy an activity, they develop persistence and

negotiating abilities. They do not give up as easily in the

face of frustration as they might doing a math problem.

Play is also critical for emotional health because it helps

kids work through anxiety and stress. Through imaginative

play, which is most easily initiated without adults or

rules, children build fantasies that help them cope with

difficult situations. Play encourages flexibility and

creativity that may be advantageous in unexpected situations

or new environments.

Relieving stress and building social skills also seem to be

the obvious benefits of play. But there is another, more

counterintuitive area of influence: Play actually appears to

make kids smarter. Play improves problem solving. By playing

with blocks or a Quaker Oats box, for example, youngsters

spend less time in unproductive developmental activities

such as watching television. (Even when young people are

watching educational programs, the activity of watching

is a passive one rather than an active one.)

Many parents believe they are acting in their children’s

best interests when they swap free play for what they see as

structured learning activities. Some hesitate to let their

kids play outside unattended; they fret about the

possibility of physical harm that sometimes arise during

play fighting or rambunctious fantasy play. A child who has

had a rich exposure to social play experiences is more

likely to become an adult who can manage unpredictable

social situations.

Parents should let their children be children–not just

because it should be fun to be a child but because denying

youth unfettered joys keeps kids from developing into

inquisitive, creative creatures. Play has to be reframed and

seen not as an opposite to learning but rather as a

complement. Curiosity, imagination and creative are like

muscles: if you don’t use them, you lose them.

Reducing “free play” in attempts to promote academic

achievement (as in making kindergarten into first grade) is

another well-intentioned but counterproductive approach–as

are the others at



6. Discipline without Stress

The following was from a post and response on the mailring:


I have questions about the levels. Is it possible to use the

levels as a self-evaluation tool for any inappropriate or

undesired behavior?

Here is an example of what I mean. My 6th graders had real

difficulty staying on task in reading group. I told them

before we began reading group, I was going to ask them some

questions and that they needed to be completely honest with

themselves by raising a hand to the answer that best

describes what they do.

When you break into reading groups do you:

A/B – Make little or no effort to read or practice while

misbehaving or disturbing others?

C – Practice and focus only when an adult is near you to

impress the teacher (external motivation)?

D – Display a desire to read by reading even when the

teacher is not looking and remaining focused the

whole time (internal motivation)?

Out of 25 kids, 5 raised their hands for A/B, 15 raised

there hand for C, and 5 raised their hand for level D.

When I asked them which one they thought was the best, they

all raised their hands for D. I then told them that was what

I expected from them for the remaining time during reading

class. They lived up to it.

Was it an intrinsic reaction, or was it the fact that the

majority of the class assessed themselves as externally

driven and were therefore just seeking my approval?


You will never know!

We can only accurately judge the level of our OWN behaviour.

We cannot judge whether ANOTHER PERSON is at Level C or D

simply because we don’t have access to the internal thoughts

of another person. That’s why the DWS Hierarchy is a tool of

self-assessment. It’s not a tool that a teacher can use to

assess a student. We don’t know (with 100% certainty,) what

is motivating another person to act as they do. All we can

see is the behaviour, not the motivation. We can accurately

judge the behaviours of Level A and B, but we can only guess

at the motivational levels in another person (C or D.)

The good news is this: It doesn’t matter whether or not we

can accurately assess a student’s level. It doesn’t even

matter if students decide to choose Level C rather than D.

It is not our job to have everyone operate from Level D


The very definition of Level D motivation is that it be

heartfelt and genuine. Our job is simply to make students

aware of their choices and then inspire them to aim for a

high/higher choice. LEVEL C IS EXPECTED, LEVEL D IS


It’s important that students understand that operating at

any particular level is a personal choice and that BOTH

Levels C and D are completely acceptable. Of course, the

benefits to someone motivated on Level D are greater than

the benefits a person receives when they choose Level C.

This difference in benefits is what motivates many people to

WANT to move up a notch in any given situation. This link

might be of use to you:


Once a person consciously becomes aware of the the benefits

of Level D, they very often strive to experience them again

and again and again; the process just naturally spirals

upward. I found the information Marv shared in his February

2009 e-zine, regarding the release of opiates in the brain

in response to Level D behaviour, really interesting. No

wonder Level D is so powerful! No wonder people are inspired

to repeat this level once they have experienced it. Nature

is on our side–providing a reward like no other!

(The link Kerry referred to is at


By asking the kids to assess themselves SILENTLY, you avoid

problems that might interfere with your objective. For

instance, when people are asked to reflect silently, they

are more inclined to be totally honest with themselves,

instead of being focused on denying responsibility or trying

to impress others. These things might happen when students

announce their assessed level in the presence of others.

I have found that the more often you discuss the benefits of

Level D, the more people become interested in trying them

out. I tell students that I expect them to operate at Level

C by following the procedures I have taught. Then I let

them know that Level D motivation is an OPTION they can

CHOOSE if they want to experience greater benefits.

EXPLAINED AS A CHOICE, the highest level becomes even more


I often think that one of the very best ways to learn to use

DWS is by first learning how to motivate kids in academic

situations such as the one you described. If a person does

this PROACTIVELY (rather than trying to fix an academic

situation where the kids are already poorly behaved or

unfocused), then it’s easy to be positive. If a teacher is

finding it hard to learn how to use the Hierarchy in

discipline situations, my advice is to leave it for awhile,

switch the focus to using the Hierarchy in academic

settings. In time this practice will make it easier for the

teacher to remain positive in discipline situations, too.

The following link gives more information about implementing

PART IV of the DWS Teaching Model:



(More of Kerry’s posts are at http://disciplineanswers.com/)

7. Testimonials/Research

Your presentation was rated among the best at the

conference, and there is quite a “buzz” about the simplicity

of your discipline management system.

Len A. Davidson

International Best Practice Network

Kingston, Jamaica West Indies